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Antonio Pierce hits high notes, high bids at Raiders gala

Updated April 4, 2024 - 11:43 am

How does the anthem go? “The Autumn Wind is a Raider, singing just for fun …”

Maybe not. But if there is such a thing as Raideroake, Antonio Pierce would be champion.

The Raiders head coach was an unbilled singer Saturday night at the Raiders Foundation inaugural Silver & Black Gala at Cristal Ballroom at Wynn Las Vegas.

What was also inaugural was Pierce’s unexpected, yet not entirely uninvited, rendition of “My Girl” with Katharine McPhee. Instead of the “My giiiiiirl” refrain, he called out, “Raaaaaiiiders!” High points for hitting the high notes on, “Ooooh-hooo!” and style points for the coach’s stylish swaying.

McPhee was on stage with her hubby and recording-industry giant David Foster, who headed up the night’s music program. Anderson .Paak as DJ Pee .Wee performed a “walk-in” set (backed, as always, by animated sidekick Eddie Mac). Andra Day, Loren Allred, Jordin Sparks, Pia Toscano and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds performed for 1,020 guests at 104 tables.

Impressive turnout, especially for a first-year fundraising event.

Saturday’s show benefited mental health awareness and raising funds for the Legal Aid of Southern Nevada’s Resiliency & Justice Center which provides resources and support for victims of trauma and violent crime.

Rumors, couched in wishful thinking, that Celine Dion might show up were unfounded. Foster’s participation sparked such speculation, given his long history with the superstar (he produced her first English-speaking album, 1990’s “Unison.”

Foster said Dion was not going to take the stage, informing the crowd, “You can’t afford her.”

Foster brought up a song for which Dion became famous, “All By Myself,” by the recently departed Eric Carmen. The producer remarked he pushed Dion so hard to hit the high note at the end “she spent two pages in her book talking about what an a**hole I was during the recording of this song.”

Toscano then took the stage and performed a flawless rendition.

Foster also showed his affection for the Raiders franchise. He name-dropped Kenny Stabler, asking McPhee if she had heard of him. “Um, I wasn’t born yet,” she countered.

The producer then called out, “Is Jim Plunkett here? Where is Jim Plunkett?” noting Plunkett’s history with the Raiders and also Stanford University. “Give it up for Jim Plunkett.” The former QB grinned back.

The night’s live auction was also a piece of entertainment. Led by father-son auction team of Christian and Parker Kolberg, the bidding for “Road Trip!!!” climbed to $26,000. This is the chance for the winning bidder and a guest to fly with the team during a 2024 regular-season road game.

When the bidding stalled, Pierce took over. “Twenty-six ain’t good enough!” the coach called out. “I hear a lotta talk, but not a lotta bidding! Where’s 30 at?”

Pierce goosed the bid to $32,000 — and offered three opportunities to travel with the team. That move generated a trio of bids totalling $96K in about two minutes. This is why he is the head man.

Pierce later called several players up for another low bid, at $22K, for a private event for up to 50 people at the Raiders’ headquarters in Henderson. Led by QB Aiden O’Connell, the assembled Raiders actually huddled on how to move the bid.

O’Connell then told the crowd he and his teammates onstage would donate $1,000 apiece to lift the closing bid to $30K.

“I didn’t talk to my wife before this, so sorry, Jael,” O’Connell said, nodding toward his wife across the room. “I’m so sorry. I’m still under the rookie contract …”

Donning shades and a sparkling acoustic guitar, Babyface closed out with “Change The World,” which he produced in 1996 for Eric Clapton. An inspired landing. The Raiders have shown once more they get Las Vegas’s philanthropic spirit and sense of panache.

Headed up by Raiders Foundation Executive Director Kari Uyehara, this event will only grow. The coach won’t have it any other way.

On the topic of charity …

The 21st Animal Foundation Best In Show Canine Extravaganza! — er, dog show and adoption event — is 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Dozens of dogs are up for adoption in small, medium, large and variety pack (go to animalfoundation.com for intel).

Linq Hotel headliner Mat Franco, UNLV President Keith Whitfield, Aces forward Alysha Clark and yours truly are on the judging panel. I have been a supporter of Best in Show for more than a decade. The only thing that’s fixed in this competition are the contestants.

Groupon? No, ‘Group’ off

Producer Dick Feeney’s “Jew Man Group” has closed at Tuscany’s Copa Room. This does seem immediate and final; no tickets for the show to be found. Feeney still has “The Rat Pack is Back” in that venue, and also “MJ Live” at the Sahara.

Cool Hang Alert

A benefit of the closing of the Tropicana led to a reunion with comic great Shayma Tash, who has not performed in VegasVille for a couple of years. She sang “Jack and Diane” during Harry Basil’s Harryoake (that topic again) party last Saturday at Laugh Factory. This was fun, but not a ticketed experience.

Tash next headlines a dinner/comedy show at Silver Sevens Showroom at 6 p.m. Saturday. It’s an Italian buffet, some expert comedy, and also a visit by the QVC Lady. Go to eventbrite.com to book.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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